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Transl J Am Coll Sports Med. 2018 Jan;3(1):1-9. doi: 10.1249/TJX.0000000000000051.

Active Learning Increases Children's Physical Activity across Demographic Subgroups.

Author information

The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX.
The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX.



Given the need to find more opportunities for physical activity within the elementary school day, this study was designed to asses the impact of I-CAN!, active lessons on: 1) student physical activity (PA) outcomes via accelerometry; and 2) socioeconomic status (SES), race, sex, body mass index (BMI), or fitness as moderators of this impact.


Participants were 2,493 fourth grade students (45.9% male, 45.8% white, 21.7% low SES) from 28 central Texas elementary schools randomly assigned to intervention (n=19) or control (n=9). Multilevel regression models evaluated the effect of I-CAN! on PA and effect sizes were calculated. The moderating effects of SES, race, sex, BMI, and fitness were examined in separate models.


Students in treatment schools took significantly more steps than those in control schools (β = 125.267, SE = 41.327, p = .002, d = .44). I-CAN! had a significant effect on MVPA with treatment schools realizing 80% (β = 0.796, SE =0.251, p = .001; d = .38) more MVPA than the control schools. There were no significant school-level differences on sedentary behavior (β = -0.177, SE = 0.824, p = .83). SES, race, sex, BMI, and fitness level did not moderate the impact of active learning on step count and MVPA.


Active learning increases PA within elementary students, and does so consistently across demographic sub-groups. This is important as these sub-groups represent harder to reach populations for PA interventions. While these lessons may not be enough to help children reach daily recommendations of PA, they can supplement other opportunities for PA. This speaks to the potential of schools to adopt policy change to require active learning.


active learning; children; elementary school; physical activity

Conflict of interest statement

Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest to disclose. Additionally, the results of the present study do not constitute endorsement by ACSM. Authors also declare results are presented clearly and honestly without fabrications, falsification, or inappropriate data manipulation.

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